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Finding the best linguist for the job

U.S. Air Force recruiter speaks to a civilian alongside two Air Force permanent party members during Language Day at Presidio of Monterey, Calif., May 10, 2019. The Defense Language Institute implemented a new initiative to help recruiters identify qualified linguists and accelerate their time going through training. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Zachary Chapman/Released)

U.S. Air Force recruiter speaks to a civilian alongside two Air Force permanent party members during Language Day at Presidio of Monterey, Calif., May 10, 2019. The Defense Language Institute implemented a new initiative to help recruiters identify qualified linguists and accelerate their time going through training. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Zachary Chapman/Released)

PRESIDIO OF MONTEREY, Calif. --

The Defense Language Institute is helping recruiters find higher quality linguists by providing recruiters the tools and information they need to help spot potential linguists and streamline their training process.

“One of the things that we looked at was what makes an individual successful at the Defense Language Institute,” said Senior Master Sgt. Richard Sanchez, 314th Training Squadron operations superintendent. “We took 30 years’ worth of data, researched it and gave it to Air Education Training Command analysis squadron. They provided us some demographic information that we used to try and find different aspects of a personality or characteristics that make them successful here. One thing that we found out is prior knowledge of a language is a drastic increase in someone’s success rate here at DLI.”

Master Sgt. Arno Trefflich, DLI chief military language instructor Asian School Two, was selected to go on a temporary duty assignment to the 372nd Recruiting Group, based out of Hill Air Force Base. During his time there he worked with the recruiting squadrons, providing them tools to help find better linguists.

“Primarily I spent my time educating recruiters. I worked with about 100 of them and shared with them the data that we found from the analysis, as well as provided them insight into what the linguist career field is about,” said Trefflich. “Many people get the idea that we are just translators, or interpreters, when in reality we are intelligence professionals who take information from a different language and make it usable for decision makers in English.”

“Pick any recruiter out there, they may be a maintenance person or a transportation person, they have no idea what a linguist is,” said Sanchez. “If the recruiter doesn’t have the knowledge of the linguist’s job to get that motivation started early on then we are already behind the curve in the success rate.”

While Trefflich was with the 372nd RCG they provided additional data to combine and cross check with the original data. Using these different sources enabled new methods of finding higher quality linguists.

“Now we can target our efforts and send one of our linguists from DLI out to Los Angeles because they have a larger bilingual population,” said Sanchez.

DLI has not had to wait long to see results from this new initiative.

“Master Sgt. Trefflich has been working with some recruiters to get applicants to take the defense language proficiency test prior to them going off to basic training so that they can bypass DLI,” said Sanchez. “Now we are able to recruit someone who can speak the language, they don’t have security concerns, and they are going to skip DLI, which is 64 weeks of training. This gets them out to the field and operational just that much earlier. This is huge because the airborne linguist training is the longest in the training pipeline in the Air Force.”

By providing recruiters information on what a linguist does, the qualities that make a good linguist recruiter, and the tools to bypass 64 weeks’ worth of classes for a proficient civilian, this initiative is saving the Air Force $150,000 to $250,000 per student and gets higher quality linguists out into the field quicker.

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